Belfast Telegraph

OX: French chef Alain Passard cooks up a storm with 'Frankenstein' pigeon's head-in-lamb dish at Belfast restaurant


The lamb-pigeon chimera as it was served on Monday night
The lamb-pigeon chimera as it was served on Monday night

By Eimear McGovern

One of the world's top chefs cooked up a storm in Belfast by serving a pigeon's head in a lamb roast.

French chef Alain Passard, who holds three coveted Michelin stars to his name, was in Belfast on Sunday and Monday night to celebrate the birthday of restaurant OX.

The Frenchman is the owner of Paris restaurant Arpege which is one of the Top 20 in the world and is a former colleague of OX owner Alain Kerloch and chef Stephen Toman. The two worked alongside the celebrated chef before creating their own Michelin-starred eatery in Belfast.

For his 11-course tasting menu, Mr Passard's star of the show - or at least the dish that raised eyebrows - was his signature dish lamb pigeon chimera, inspired by the artist Thomas Grünfield for his Misfits artwork.

Grünfeld is a contemporary German sculptor best known for his series of hybrid taxidermied animals, which feature dead animals which have been sewn together.

"Confusing and fascinating at the same time," the menu proclaimed.

"The mix of these two animals is even more disturbing as they suit and complete each other."

The dish was cerated by the famous French chef
The dish was cerated by the famous French chef

Belfast Telegraph restaurant critic Joris Minne was among the diners. He said he very much enjoyed the dish.

"Chimera means a fantastical figure - I said it wasn't a chimera at all, it's a Frankenstein. The pigeon head was real, the lamb was real and it was actually beautiful because pigeon and lamb work incredibly well together.

"I was expecting some kind of reaction but there wasn't any - I think most of the negative reaction was on Twitter because if you take it out of context, it does look horrific.

"It is disturbing and you do wonder who would find enjoyment in this," he said.

"OX is a very vegetable-driven restaurant and Alain Passard himself is largely vegetarian. To go from that to this extreme meat dish, I wonder if he's playing with our heads."

Other dishes on the tasting menu were more familiar to Belfast diners, including raw scallop with buttermilk and mussels, Jerusalem artichoke and candied tomato with 12 flavours.

OX owner Alain Kerloch said the chimera dish was very popular.

"Anybody who ate it loved it - in Paris it's been a signature dish for many years and is served for lunch or dinner 120 covers a day," he said.

"Anything creative and anything new causes a stir, that's why when we presented the dish, we explained the thinking behind it.

Alain Passard - Chef
Alain Passard - Chef

"It's the kind of dish you have to taste to say if you like it or not. A photo on social media, you can't comment if you haven't tried it," he said.

On social media users were left baffled and divided. One user said the dish was enough to make them turn vegetarian.

Former BBC journalist Natasha Sayee added: "I’m sorry OX, I know you are a terrific business for Northern Ireland and hugely successful and I truly want to support you but this is just ghastly."

Transport industry representative Seamus Leheny said: "Lovely, enjoy........Wait, What?!?"

Kirsty Meredith said she wouldn't be able to look at a pigeon again in the same way.

"I love meat, but no thank you," she said.

The explanation for the dish presented with the menu
The explanation for the dish presented with the menu

Others were more positive. Aodhan Michael Connolly - who represents the retail trade - was "very jealous".

"That's one I would like to try," he said.

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